I knew this winter was predicted to be a long one, but no one could have warned me just how long it would turn out to be. Though we've had nearly record breaking levels of snow, and still sport it knee-deep at this elevation, the fluffy white stuff was the least of it. Looking at the weather map that says the next storm may dump another foot on us isn't the worst.
What makes this winter so intolerably long (besides the political climate) is that I am currently suffering a writing slump. I started the fall season great guns, and got up to chapter 12 on my WIP - a prequel for my Emrysia series - before Christmas vacation and a busy houseful derailed me. I've been so busy with other things since then it has been easy to neglect my writing. Unfortunately, I can't neglect the fact that I miss it desperately. (Self-inflicted wounds are always the worst!) Fortunately, I'm nearing my pain threshold.
One of my recent visitors from Japan told me that after visiting Harvard and MIT, he now regrets not attending an English speaking school when he had the opportunity. I wanted to encourage him that it is never too late. (He is young, so it's actually really early in his game.) It is important to acknowledge our mistakes, but also to realize that regret doesn't help in the slightest. You can only push through a barrier by recognizing it as such, and moving forward. Sure we might get sidetracked - I've made a habit of it! - but like an in-breath in yoga, a pause before you reach higher can help ease you toward your goal. (I just started doing yoga, so hopefully this analogy makes sense.) A moment of mindfulness helps you release where you are, and move further into where you want to be. It is just as important as the movement that is contingent upon it. But, you shouldn't stay there dwelling on things any more than you should hold your breath forever.
Spring is coming. I'm almost ready to exhale again.
My long moment of mindfulness is almost over.
A shout out to Fumihiro, Kai and Ryoma - thanks for visiting; we miss you already! And Yuto, come back and see us sometime. Our door is always open.
It's a mixed bag, alright. One day you get dumped on, and the next your head is in the clouds. Reality goes from mundane to macabre to sublime in the blink of an eye, and still... we just keep on with it. That's life.
Nothing is static. Change is inevitable.
I lead a fairly ordinary life and so, I imagine, do most of you. Days drag on in dull sameness until the occasional blip to remind us that there is more to it than that. We have good days and bad, but most are a muddle of both. For example in the last two weeks I have gotten - and gotten over- a wicked cold, nervously anticipated and enjoyed a visitor from Japan, experienced moments of stress and immense pride as my daughter declaimed poetry on public television, braved a blizzard to help my husband with our broken plow truck --- and rejoiced the next day when he was actually able to resurrect it! I've shoveled the weight of that truck in snow, experienced a power outage, sang for a friend in critical care... and last night learned of his passing. Today I will finish cleaning my house and making brownies to welcome a second round of Japanese visitors, while mulling the music for my friend's funeral. Another ordinary day.
What keeps us going - what drives us to look toward tomorrow?
What makes life worth living despite its ups and downs?
I can't answer that for you, but for me it is hope. Hope that I will see another glorious sunset, hear another moving sonata, read another masterfully written novel. Hope that even though I cannot commit to the time and monetary investment of her joining the lacrosse team, I will get to revel in my youngest daughter's role as a fairy/pirate in her upcoming school play, and that my teenager will get into the college of her choice with enough financial aid to make her attendance possible. Hope that my worries for my adult children will be unfounded, and my dreams of a sustainable writing career for myself will come to fruition. Hope that whatever is around the corner will be a blessing, even if it's wearing a mask and holding a gun to my head.
"I have learned it is all in how you look at things."
Will I be disappointed? Maybe. But living without hope is an even bigger disappointment, one that keeps repeating itself, like a broken record of bad karma for the brain. Believing tomorrow will bring nothing but rain clouds blinds us to rainbows.
Today and always, I have hope that there is more to life than what we're living now, that it keeps going on, even after we're gone. I hope that for my friend who just died, for myself, and for you, too.
And, I hope you see the rainbows along the way.
Who doesn't like a huge payoff? Raise your hand on that one and I'll question your sanity!
Most of the time we get back exactly what we put into things. We can choose to invest our effort, time and other resources in whatever matters most to us. For some that is career, for others it could be family, hobbies, charities, health, self-gratification - you name it. Our choices are practically limitless.
Those who focus exclusively on moving up in the world will usually do just that...though they'll probably end up there all alone. Similarly, spend yourself solely on family and you are likely to have a close-knit clan, but you may be lacking in the friends and money department.
What I'm getting at is that we all need balance in our lives. If at times one area takes center stage and uses up most of our resources, so be it; attend to what needs your attention most. But, please...don't focus so much on the pay-off that you neglect the other areas of your life too long. Cases in point: the workaholic businessman who realizes he missed out on seeing his children grow up; the lonely housewife who finds herself friendless, goal-less, and at loose ends once the nest is empty; the single person with money to burn and acquaintances galore, but no deeply committed relationships; the starving artist who beggars not only himself, but his family.
The old pearl "you can't take it with you" is hard for some to swallow, so much so that they ignore everything but the almighty dollar until it's too late. Equally true, though altruistic, if you live life solely for others, you can end up with no life of your own. And those who devote themselves only to their art tend to make lousy partners, parents, and friends. Most die penniless anyhow.
"Pursuing dreams isn't a bad thing. But it's not the only thing."
Take it from someone who knows.
As a writer and artist, I would love to make it big. But I've learned throughout the years that huge payoffs have less value than lots of little ones --- just like one wildly happy day of utter freedom can't make up for years of drudgery. One big payoff can't compare to lasting contentment, and I'm not willing to sacrifice everything for my art. There is more to life than fulfilling a goal, namely; my family, friends, health, and peace of mind.
Usually, I encourage you to follow your dreams. This time I want you to keep them in perspective. I spent a large portion of my adulthood as the most dedicated stay-at-home mom in the world, pouring myself out on my family and rarely - if ever - stopping to refill and recharge. My dreams were definitely on hold for far too long. While I wasn't exactly miserable, I was less than fulfilled...and, I'll admit, often pretty miserable to live with. When the kids were mostly old enough to take care of themselves, I did an about-face, and dove into my writing career with such gusto that I began to see family life as an intrusion. Not good, either.
Nowadays I'm finding balance by making time for my work while keeping family and home a priority. I'm taking pleasure in all aspects of my life, not just one or two. I'm enjoying each day more, feeling more satisfied, and fulfilling my many roles in the greater scheme of things, bit by bit. Some days it is easy, and others it takes more effort, but it's a steady payoff. And, it makes my life infinitely richer in ways that matter most.
What are you investing in? Is it worth the cost?